Meeting the Cool Neighbors. XII. An Optically Anchored Analysis of the Near-infrared Spectra of L Dwarfs
Discrepancies between competing optical and near-infrared (NIR) spectral typing systems for L dwarfs have motivated us to search for a classification scheme that ties the optical and NIR schemes together, and addresses complexities in the spectral morphology. We use new and extant optical and NIR spectra to compile a sample of 171 L dwarfs, including 27 low-gravity β and γ objects, with spectral coverage from 0.6-2.4 μm. We present 155 new low-resolution NIR spectra and 19 new optical spectra. We utilize a method for analyzing NIR spectra that partially removes the broad-band spectral slope and reveals similarities in the absorption features between objects of the same optical spectral type. Using the optical spectra as an anchor, we generate near-infrared spectral average templates for L0-L8, L0-L4γ, and L0-L1β type dwarfs. These templates reveal that NIR spectral morphologies are correlated with the optical types. They also show the range of spectral morphologies spanned by each spectral type. We compare low-gravity and field-gravity templates to provide recommendations on the minimum required observations for credibly classifying low-gravity spectra using low-resolution NIR data. We use the templates to evaluate the existing NIR spectral standards and propose new ones where appropriate. Finally, we build on the work of Kirkpatrick et al. to provide a spectral typing method that is tied to the optical and can be used when only H or K band data are available. The methods we present here provide resolutions to several long-standing issues with classifying L dwarf spectra and could also be the foundation for a spectral classification scheme for cloudy exoplanets.